8 rules for optimal soccer nutrition

Aug 16, 2019

The literature is filled with various approaches to nutrition. However, many diets are so strict that amateur and professional athletes find them hard to implement. Ultimately many players feel confused or overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.

To help, we went all-out reading the literature, spoke with top players and trainers, and stole some pages from the rules on nutrition of the US National Team to recommend eight key nutritional tips that can optimally fuel your body for performance:

1. Three meals per day
Eat three substantial meals a day, making sure to include healthy fats with each of those meals. Carbohydrates should be consumed before and after heavy bouts of training to refuel and replenish glycogen storages in muscles for optimal performance and recovery.

Some trainers suggest eating smaller meals more often. However, eating meals in higher frequency reduces the body's ability to recover from intense training or games because it's focusing energy on digestion as opposed to muscle repair.

2. Eat proteins for breakfast every day

Eating within 30 minutes of waking up jump starts your metabolism. This gives you more energy to get your day going. However, not all calories are the same. Focus on consuming protein and avoiding simple carbohydrates like bagels, toasts, or oatmeal. Simple carbohydrates immediately spike your blood sugar and reduce your ability to oxidize fat during training, which is important in reducing inflammation and being metabolically flexible.

3. Eat your veggies, often
Eat fruits and vegetables with each meal. Choose a wide variety of colors and, when possible, eat seasonally for the largest benefit.

4. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration = decreased performance. Drink at least three liters of non-caloric beverages (water/green tea) every day. 

5. Eat healthy fats
Include healthy fats in your diet such as coconut and extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and natural nut butters, grass-fed butter, seeds, avocado, and fish. Avoid cooking with or consuming heavily hydrogenated and processed oils such as canola and vegetable oil.

6. For the Carnivores
Seek quality sources and consume the entire animal. Lean meat is high in protein, dark meat is rich in protein and healthy fats, and organ meat is packed with nutrients, minerals and healthy omega 3 fats. These nutrients are essential for physical performance, recovery, and cognitive functions - like making better decisions on the field


7. Get sleep

Aim for eight hours of sleep. If you can’t get eight hours daily, power nap when you can. The body recovers and repairs best during sleep. 

8. Supplement wisely
Fuel first and supplement second. After every game or practice, enjoy a post-workout recovery snack or shake that combines both carbs and protein immediately after your training. And if you are not getting what you need through food, consider a multivitamin supplement into your daily routine. Create a smart supplementation program that improves your performance without compromising your health or draining your wallet.

Before you take any type of supplement, make sure to check in with your doctor or registered dietitian.

To close, make it fun as you step things up.

US Soccer Federation, "The 10 Nutrition Rules to Live By"; interviews with expert sports nutritionists

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